Novelist, short story writer and playwright Eugene McCabe talks about his work and living in a border area.
Eugene McCabe was born in Glasgow in 1930. His parents had emigrated from Ireland and the family returned here in 1939, settling in Clones County Monaghan. In 1955 McCabe and his wife Margot came to Drumard House and began farming cattle.
His 1964 play 'King of the Castle' caused controversy because of its subject matter, and his 'Victims' trilogy of plays which was adapted for television and broadcast on RTÉ in 1973 received critical acclaim and provoked debate.
Influenced by the Troubles, the trilogy looks at issues faced by ordinary people during this time. How is it possible for a border writer to avoid taking sides? Eugene McCabe says he worked hard to avoid bias and was aware of his own prejudices.
If you are going to write in a polemical way or in a biased way it may please some people, but in the end it’s worthless.
As regards what he is trying to achieve with his writing, the settings and locations are not of primary importance to Eugene McCabe. Instead it is presenting how ordinary people deal with an extraordinary situation, so that the result is,
An inner truth about human beings, in a traumatic situation like the North...how it affects them.
Describing himself as a ‘prose man’, Eugene McCabe prefers the short story format over that of the play. He confines his writing schedule to the time between late autumn and the start of spring. Outside of that time he is busy on the farm, unless he is commissioned to write something or has a deadline to keep. He has struck a good balance, he thinks, as ultimately it is more important to spend time with his family and live a good life,
I don't regard writing as the most important thing in the world.
This episode of ‘Folio’ was broadcast on 28 September 1970. The reporter is Tom McGurk.